© Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons
Having a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, India is a current hotspot for the never ending coronavirus pandemic. According to AP News, India’s covid cases surpassed 20 million on Tuesday, May 6th, which is double from what it was at only three months prior. Another horrifying statistic is that the number of deaths in India has officially passed 250,000 people as of Tuesday, May 11th, according to World-o-Meter, which has a live feed of the number of cases, deaths, and people who have recovered from covid in India. This reported caseload is second solely to the United States, which is only one-fourth the population of India; but, according to AP News, the U.S. has over 32 million confirmed cases, making many wonder how severe this virus could get in India with the overwhelmingly larger population in comparison with the United States.
Infections have surged in India since February, and observers have blamed this on the increase of contagious variants of covid and governmental decisions to allow massive gathering for varying religious festivals and political rallies before the state elections. According to CNBC, a World Health Organization official said on Monday, May 10th that the highly contagious triple-mutant covid variant in India has been reclassified as a “variant of concern,” and many people are taking this an an indication that this variant has become a global health threat. It was previously labeled as a “variant of interest”, which can officially be changed to the label “of concern” when it has proved to be more deadly and contagious, or if it is more resistant to current vaccines and treatments, according to the WHO.
The country has also been dealing with shortages of oxygen; in fact, according to the New York Times, as many as 24 people died after the Chamarajanagar District Hospital in Karnataka ran out of medical-grade oxygen, only worsening this national crisis and making the citizens of India question their leaders and health care system. As reported by AP News, in an attempt to quiet the frustrated people of not only India, but everyone in the world who is watching this catastrophe worsen, the New Delhi High Court has announced that it will start punishing government officials if supplies of oxygen allocated to hospitals are not delivered, saying “Enough is enough,” wanting to put an end to this critical situation that has quickly deteriorated the economy of India.
Another reason cases have skyrocketed in comparison to other, more developed, countries is due to the lack of vaccines. In an article by AP News, Dr. Punyabrata Goon, convener of the West Bengal Doctor’s Forum, says that “It’s a terrifying crisis,” and states that the government needs to hasten immunizations. Unfortunately for India, the world’s largest maker of vaccines is short of shots, which is the result of lagging manufacturing and raw materials shortages, making it even more difficult to attempt to get the citizens of India vaccinated.
Experts are also worried that prices for shots will make it much more difficult for those who are poor to get vaccinated. As reported in an article by AP News, India is averaging a vaccination rate of 2.1 million shots a day. This may sound like a lot, however, this is only about 0.15% of their population. According CNBC, the poverty rate in India has increased immensely due to the pandemic, nearly doubling from what is was previously. Poverty in India was actually on the decline, dropping from 340 million to 78 million between the years of 2011 and 2019, and was actually projected to fall to 59 million last year if the pandemic had never happened, as stated in a CNBC article. Sadly, around 75 million more people in India have fallen into poverty because of pandemic-induced economic recession.
According to BBC News, Rahul Gandhi, a senior Congress member in India, says that a lockdown is the only option left to stop the spread of this deadly virus and bashed the Government of India (GOI) for allowing the virus to reach this stage, saying in a tweet that “A crime has been committed against India,” demanding that they start doing more to slow down the spread of cases.